U.S. Rep. Kay Granger to step down from powerful House appropriations leadership position

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, will step down early as chair of the influential House Appropriations Committee. (Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson For The Texas Tribune, Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson For The Texas Tribune)

Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Recommended Videos

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, will step down early as chair of the influential House Appropriations Committee, she announced in a letter to Republican leadership Friday.

"As I reflect on my time in the House of Representatives and more than 5 years as Ranking Member and now Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, I realize I have accomplished more than I ever could have imagined," Granger wrote in a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson.

The chairmanship is one of the most powerful positions held by a Texan in Congress. The Appropriations Committee sets funding levels every year for a host of government programs. Granger has been the top Republican on the committee since 2019.

Without Granger, only three Texans will chair committees in Congress: Rep. Jodey Arrington chairs the Budget Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul chairs Foreign Affairs and Rep. Roger Williams chairs Small Business. Texas sends more Republicans to Congress than any other state. But recent departures among experienced members have limited the number of members in top positions.

Granger announced last year that she would not seek reelection this cycle. She is currently the longest-serving Republican in the Texas delegation, serving since 1997.

Granger said in her letter she would remain chairwoman until the Republican Steering Committee, which determines committee assignments for the conference, selects a new chair. She said she plans to remain on the Appropriations committee, offering advice to the next chair.

"My goal for the next nine months is to return to where I began my career, as an educator," she wrote. "I will remain on the Committee as Chair Emeritus to lead as a teacher would, providing advice and counsel for my colleagues when it is needed."

Granger has served on the committee for 25 years. She has long been a staunch advocate for defense spending, particularly in her Fort Worth-based district, including manufacturing of the F-35 fighter jet. She also oversaw over $400 million going to Fort Worth's Panther Island flood control and development project, which prompted questions of impropriety since her son was the head of the authority overseeing the project. He left the project in 2022.

Granger’s announcement came only hours after the House voted to pass legislation to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends at the end of September. This year’s funding cycle has been littered with starts and stops, as Republicans struggled to wrangle their ideologically diverse conference behind funding legislation.

Members of the Republican conference’s influential right wing decried federal funding efforts by the traditionally bipartisan Appropriations Committee as wasteful and demanded provisions tackling cultural issues such as transgender care in the military. Even after Friday's vote to pass the funding legislation, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, filed a motion to remove Johnson as speaker in retaliation.

The Appropriations Committee will need to pass another set of federal funding bills before the end of September to keep the government funded for the next fiscal year. Congress has failed to meet that deadline for nearly 30 years, and Granger acknowledged in her letter that election years in particular often distract Congress from passing spending bills on time.

Granger has expressed frustrations with the committee's turn toward divisive cultural issues, according to fellow Texas members.

"We would always say that there are Democrats, there's Republicans, and then you've got appropriators. And I think this year in Appropriations is my first year that I've been around that I saw that it diverted from that," U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said in an interview in August. "I could see her, that that's not the way she would have preferred to have things."

Cuellar is the only Texas Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. Other Texas members include Republican Reps. John Carter, Jake Ellzey, Tony Gonzales and Michael Cloud.

Granger has maintained good relations with the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, and the heads of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In a Friday statement, DeLauro praised Granger as an experienced and tough negotiator.

"The first Republican woman to ever lead the Committee, she was not handed this position. Like every leadership position she has held before this, including her role as the first woman to serve as mayor of Fort Worth, Texas, she fought hard and proved herself every step of the way," DeLauro said. “It has been an honor to serve with Chairwoman Granger. I am going to miss having her as Chairwoman and look forward to continuing to work with her as Chairwoman Emerita.”

Granger is widely respected on both sides of the aisle among long-serving members in Congress. She is the first Texas Republican woman to serve in Congress and is currently the dean of Texas' Republican delegation. She organizes weekly lunches with her fellow Texas Republicans — a tradition to foster a united front in the delegation. Several older members lament that the delegation is decreasingly unified in its positions. Granger made the point during one meeting where she tried to get the delegation more unified on who to back for House speaker last fall.

Granger joined Congress after serving as mayor of Fort Worth. Members of both parties tried to recruit her to run to replace the retiring Democratic Rep. Pete Geren in 1996.

Her own successor is likely the winner of the GOP primary runoff between state Rep. Craig Goldman and Fort Worth business owner John O'Shea. A Democrat Trey Hunt will face the winning Republican in November, however, the district is solidly Republican.

Granger hasn't endorsed in the race, but Fort Worth business and politically leaders close to Granger are backing Goldman. Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan also supports Goldman, who served as his deputy in the Legislature. O'Shea, meanwhile, is backed by Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has targeted Goldman for his role in Paxton's impeachment last summer.

We can’t wait to welcome you to downtown Austin Sept. 5-7 for the 2024 Texas Tribune Festival! Join us at Texas’ breakout politics and policy event as we dig into the 2024 elections, state and national politics, the state of democracy, and so much more. When tickets go on sale this spring, Tribune members will save big. Donate to join or renew today.

Recommended Videos